Reality-Check
February 5, 2016
You ask, we answer: Can you keep vegetable seeds?

We get lots of questions from individul citizens via our corporate websites. We can’t answer all the questions we get, but we try to answer as many as we can. Very often, different people ask the same sorts of questions, so we’ve decided to start publishing that kind of correspondence for the benefit of everyone, just like we do with some of our correspondence with journalists. Here’s a first exchange, with Maria from Sweden, about patents on vegetable seeds. The letter has been edited for spelling and grammar and to protect the author’s privacy.

Name – Maria

Country – Sweden

Message – Hello. My name is Maria and I live in Sweden. There is a huge debate right now about patents on common vegetables. People seem to think that we no longer can take sprouts from our own plants and grow them or take seeds from our plants and grow them. All because Monsanto wants to own the patent for every seed and plant in Europe. I´ve tried to explain to one of my friends that is not correct but all those environment people in Sweden refuse to believe me:) So can you please explain what all the fuss is about? If I buy a bag of tomato seeds and grow tomatoes I´m not allowed to save seeds from the tomato and grow them next year? That is what people here believe. Can you help me out here? Have a nice day.

Kind regards,

Maria

Subject: Vegetable patents
Date: Thu, 4 Feb 2016 18:06:36 +0000

Dear Maria,

I received your email below by way of our headquarters and am pleased to reassure you that we are not trying to patent every plant in sight. To paraphrase an infamous erroneous American newspaper headline, rumors of our global plant patent domination are greatly exaggerated.

Patents are geographic. So things patented in the U.S. aren’t protected in Europe and vice-versa, unless they’re patented in both places. In Europe we have just three – count ‘em! – three patents on non-genetically modified seeds. (All GM seeds are patented, reflecting the huge investment that is required to develop them and bring them to market). We also license patents from some other companies in Europe, as this article on our European blog mentions: https://monsantoblog.eu/patent-ruling-boosts-innovative-plant-breeding/#.VrOSiRuFMSI.

We do have several dozen other non-GM patents pending in Europe. Many of those originated with two Dutch vegetable seed companies (Seminis and De Ruiter) that Monsanto bought in the 2000s. Our main vegetable seed competitors including Syngenta and Rijks Zwaan also have several patents granted and many more pending with the European Patent Office.

As usual, the picture is not as simple as it is portrayed by Greenpeace.

I’d be happy to try to answer any other questions you might have.

Best regards,

Brandon

Dear Brandon.

Thank you for your quick reply. I totally agree with you. But it makes me sad that media has that strong influence and the power to twist things around to the worst. And that people chose to believe in that with no questions or no desire to know the facts.

In a world overcrowded with humans trying to survive, climate change and many more industrial animals to feed, I think you are doing a great job.

Have a nice day.

Kind regards

Maria

 

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